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Pensacola police are working to identify the people who organized a gathering of more than 100 people at the Attucks Court public housing complex on Easter Sunday.


A video of the gathering, streamed live on Facebook, went viral almost immediately as large groups of people ignored social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in violation of an executive emergency order by Gov. Ron DeSantis.


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Officials initially thought the event was spontaneous, but a city press release said Wednesday that it had been planned and promoted in advance by people who were not residents of Attucks Court.



Attucks Court is managed by the Pensacola Area Housing Commission, which is working with the Pensacola Police Department to identify the organizers of the event.


"This block party was not endorsed by AHC or its residents,” AHC Executive Director Abe Singh said in the city press release. "It was organized by non-residents who have no interest in protecting the health and safety of our residents and community. AHC is diligently communicating with all residents to provide COVID-19 safety information and preventative actions they can take to help protect themselves and their families.”


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No arrest or citations were issued at the time of the gathering, but police worked for two hours to break up the gathering, PPD spokesman Mike Wood told the News Journal on Monday.


"Chief (Tommi) Lyter was there the entire time," Wood said. "The officers were telling the people not only to disperse, but they were explaining social distancing to them and why it was so important."


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Pensacola City Council President Jewel Cannada-Wynn called on everyone to take CDC guidelines and emergency orders seriously.


"Incidents like this can be detrimental to our entire community and our efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus, especially to the most vulnerable members of our population," Cannada-Wynn said in the news release.


Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said the city is working to prevent similar incidents from happening again during the coronavirus pandemic.


"We know it has been a difficult time for many of our residents, but right now we all need to work together to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and keep our entire community safe," Robinson said. "The actions we take as individuals can impact others, including our own loved ones.”


Jim Little can be reached at jwlittle@pnj.com and 850-208-9827.


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